Paying Taxes

standard April 10, 2018 Leave a response

It’s tax time! And I’m feeling the pressure just as I’m sure many of you are.  

For the past few days I have been furiously entering data into my Quicken software so that I can be helpful to our CPA. It’s not a task that I enjoy by any means, but it’s one that must be done. So I crank up the music on 100.9 The Hill Radio and get to work.

Paying taxes is not a new concept by any means. In fact, the first mention of paying taxes in the Bible is found in 1 Samuel and continues all throughout Scripture. In fact, when Jesus was questioned on this topic, He said that we should “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And Paul says in Romans 13:7 to “Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”

This is a good reminder for us in today’s day and age where it is socially acceptable to resist government authority. But if we are going to live our lives according to God’s Word, then we are not only paying our taxes, but we are also giving respect and honor to those in authority.

So, as tax day approaches and we sign our tax returns for the year, let’s do it Jesus style: giving what we owe with honor and respect.

Your Life Matters

standard April 3, 2018 Leave a response

Do you believe that your life matters?   

With over seven and a half billion people living on planet earth, it’s sometimes easy to think that our life is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I mean, who is really going to miss us in a world this big? But that is not what God says.

He says in Ephesians 1:4 that

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love … 

If we honestly believe that God’s Word is true, then how can we not think that our life matters whenever He tells us that we are the focus of His love?

But what gets me about this verse is how He loved me BEFORE the earth was even created. He knew that I would be right here in the year 2018 as the apple of His eye before this big, crazy world even existed. I don’t know if that blows your mind like it does mine, but it also is a great source of comfort to me.  

He has a purpose and a plan for my life.  I am the focus of God of the universe and He loves me beyond anything that I can do or imagine. My life matters to Him and it always will.

Take Up Your Cross

standard March 29, 2018 Leave a response

The old rugged cross.
Calvary’s tree.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light.

These familiar words found in our beloved hymnals bring comfort to those of us who are Christians. But I wonder, can the familiarity of these words cause us to forget the magnitude of what happened on that Good Friday? And more importantly, does it inadvertently cause us to downplay what our role as a follower of Christ actually entails?

Jesus told his disciples that in order to be a true disciple they must be willing to do three things: deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. (Matthew 16:24)

Again, all of this feels very familiar and comfortable to us as 21st century Christians, but imagine living in the 1st century as a disciple. You have left EVERYTHING (your family, your fishing business, your comfortable bed) to follow this controversial Jesus from town to town. So far, it’s all working out pretty well because He’s healing the sick, turning a boy’s lunchbox into a catered party for 5000, and don’t forget that time at the wedding when water was turned into the best wine anyone had ever tasted.

However, now Jesus is giving some radical instructions, first being to deny ourselves. Which is okay with us because we’ve already stepped out in faith, leaving the comforts of our homes.

But the music stops when we hear “take up our cross.” Wait a minute. The cross is for criminals and we are not criminals, nor is Jesus. He is the long-awaited Messiah; the Anointed One who has come to reign on David’s throne. Why in the world is He talking about taking up a cross??

And that, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road. Remember, at this point Jesus had not died on the cross nor had He been resurrected and defeated death. Yet when we read these instructions from Jesus, it’s easy for us to forget the magnitude of what is involved simply because the word “cross” is so familiar to us. It would be like Jesus telling us to pick out our own electric chair and follow Him! Now who’s game?

However, that is exactly what the disciples did. They did pick up their criminal’s cross, and they did deny themselves, and they did follow Him. Did they do it perfectly? No, but they were obedient to follow Him, even to death. And aren’t we so thankful that they did? Because had they not, you and I would not know of the Wonderful Cross and all that it represents.

The question is, are we willing as Christ-followers to do the same in our everyday lives?

Will it be uncomfortable to deny ourselves of some things in life? Absolutely. Will we be ridiculed for carrying around our cross when the rest of the world is seemingly footloose and fancy free? You bet. But will it be worth it in the end to follow the one true Messiah? Oh, a thousand times YES, it most certainly will be.

Similar to the disciples, we won’t get it right 100% of the time, but if we are faithful and obedient, the rewards will be eternal. And perhaps it is that someone else’s eternity depends upon if we are willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him!

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light. Now it is time to REFLECT THE LIGHT.

Jesus, thank You for the magnitude of what You accomplished on the cross on that Good Friday. It is a gift that I don’t deserve and it is hard to understand why You would die for a sinner such as me. Yet You did and now I will pick up my cross and follow You. Help me when I fail, Lord. Extend Your mercy and grace as I attempt to point others to the cross.

Renewed Strength

standard March 19, 2018 4 responses

Can you believe that we are already nearing the end of March?

The newness of the year has definitely worn off, but we’re not quite ready for the summer yet either. There is still much work that needs to be done and I don’t know about you, but I could use some renewed strength up in here.

Isaiah 40:31 gives us some good news with these comforting words:

but those who hope in the Lord

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint

The first thing that we need to do is to put our hope in the Lord, not ourselves. I can always tell when I’m trying to do things in my own strength because I will start to feel overwhelmed and little things will begin to irritate me.  But when I hand those reins back over to the Lord, my strength is renewed.

And it’s no ordinary strength either. It’s the kind of strength that an eagle has. I can run my kids all over town, encourage and pray for my husband, write my articles, prepare for women’s events, make several trips to the grocery store, exercise, plan a party for my mother’s birthday, maybe even babysit my nephew, and still not grow weary. How amazing is that?

God, I pray that You will infuse me with Your strength today so that I can be obedient to do the things that You have called me to do. Because without You I grow faint, but with You I can go the distance. Renew me, Lord.

Tulip Trees

standard March 13, 2018 Leave a response

I love it when the trees start their initial bud of flowers, especially the Japanese Magnolias, or as my daughters and I like to call them, the “tulip trees.”

These beautiful trees are the first to bud with their tulip like flowers, ranging from white-pink to deep purple petals. They are a reminder that spring is on the way, despite the volatile weather.

And if the weather does cooperate, then usually they will bloom and last for up to four weeks, adding splashes of color that brightly stand out against the brown dormant grass and shrubs. However, if a late frost blows through our area, then the petals can be damaged and they won’t reach their full potential.

Each year these trees remind me of the frailty and brevity of life, but they also show me the beauty of it.

We never know when an unexpected frost is going to blow through and shorten a bud’s life, robbing it of its full life span, as was the case with my brother’s unexpected death at the young age of 17.

But on the flip side, we also may live to our full life expectancy, yet never meet our maximum potential.

Psalm 39 reminds us to make each day count:

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.

Remind me that my days are numbered—

how fleeting my life is.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.

My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;

at best, each of us is but a breath.”

The point is that we must be intentional with the days that God has given us. Each day that the Holy Spirit wakes us up to begin another day, we have an opportunity to share our faith with others.

Yes, life on this earth is short, but those that are always reaching toward the LIGHT are the ones that produce the most gorgeous and enduring flowers.

Inside Out

standard March 6, 2018 2 responses

I was feeling a little blah the other day while routinely applying my same old makeup and had this thought: I could really use a makeover.

So I made the time to visit my favorite makeup store and the woman at the beauty counter did a wonderful job of applying a little bit of blush here, and a touch of lip gloss there. When she finally showed me my reflection, I was truly impressed with the what I saw in the mirror. I’m sure that I could never have produced the same result with the makeup I had at home. But as pretty as it made me feel in the moment, I knew that the results were only temporary.

I needed something more lasting. I needed a change from the inside out.

When John the Baptist was baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River he said this:

Jesus’ baptism – a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit – will change you  from the inside out. (Mark 1:8)

That’s when it hit me! I already have the Holy Spirit living inside of me and therefore I have access to everything that I need to live a fulfilled life. I just have to allow Him to transform me into a changed woman.

I need to sit down at God’s counter and apply a foundation of His Word first. Then I must add some contouring and bending of the knees in prayer in order to see the reflection that I desire.

It’s a daily discipline that the Holy Spirit is helping me to achieve, yet there are many days I fail to get it right. But my earnest desire is that when I get to heaven, Jesus will hold up a mirror to me and the reflection will absolutely stunning because it bears His face.

Pointing Others to Jesus

standard February 27, 2018 1 response

Billy Graham said, “When Christ hung, and bled, and died on the cross, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”

Last week the news of Billy Graham’s passing spread like wildfire across social media. He had lived to be 99 years old and the impact that this one man had on this world for the sake of the gospel is too great to quantify.

Numerous stories surfaced on how Billy Graham’s preaching had changed their life and led them to a relationship with Jesus Christ. One of the stories that sticks in my memory is how Louie Zamperini, the man who inspired the book Unbroken, was held as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp. Years after his release he heard Billy Graham preach and he gave his life to Christ on the spot. That bold decision gave him the courage to face his oppressors and offer them a supernatural forgiveness.

How many other stories are out there because of Billy Graham’s persistence to preach the gospel? Don’t you know that it was a beautiful homecoming last Wednesday when Billy Graham finally heard these words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

This is such a good lesson for us to learn in our everyday lives. We may never be a world-renowned preacher, but we can do what we can, where we can to point others to Christ, reminding the world that God loves them.

 

God’s Love Language

standard February 21, 2018 1 response

Did you know that over one million people get engaged every year on Valentine’s Day? Isn’t that wild? That means that roughly 500,000 new Pinterest boards titled “My Wedding!” are being created right now.

But after all the months of planning are over and the last dance at the wedding is finally done, the happy couple will soon begin the delicate art of discovering each other’s love languages.

Based on Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, I’ve found that my personal love language is “words of affirmation.” It always warms my heart and makes me beam when my husband compliments me or when my daughter tells me that she likes something I’ve made for her. I thrive when I am praised for a job well done.

My husband on the other hand feels loved by “acts of service.” If I run a special errand for him, the man is happy as can be and looks at me with all the heart eyes.

Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that God’s love language is OBEDIENCE. It’s what He desires from His children and it pleases His heart tremendously. The word “obey” occurs over 200 times in the Bible! We find it in the Old Testament passage found in Psalm 119:34 “Help me understand your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart” as well as the New Testament passage in 1 John 2:5, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.”

However, obedience is not always easy. We must train our hearts and minds to want to obey God. We face countless amounts of temptation on a daily basis, but we need to realize that God is fully aware of each one of these struggles. Christ Himself was tempted, experiencing firsthand just how hard full obedience can be. Yet Christ valued His relationship with the Father, choosing obedience over comfort and because He did, we have the glorious gift of eternal life.

Relationship matters. If we are committed to knowing God’s Word and spending time with Him in prayer, then our love for Him will grow deeper each day. But what’s amazing is that it’s not one-sided. God reciprocates our obedience with blessings! Deuteronomy 28 mentions several blessings that are accompanied by fully obeying the Lord, such as blessings in our work, our children, and our daily routines.

Just as a new bride desires to shower her husband with love, we must teach ourselves to obey God’s instructions in order to show Him love. The beautiful result is a relationship that lasts!

Father, thank You for the opportunity to show You love by obeying your commands. My desire is to please Your heart. Teach me how to walk in obedience daily.

Top 5 Reasons to Love “The Greatest Showman”

standard January 31, 2018 Leave a response

Have you had a chance to see The Greatest Showman yet? If not, drop what you’re doing and get thyself to the nearest theatre, thus sayeth the Lord. For time’s sake I won’t summarize the whole movie (that would be a full post in itself), but rather I’d like to pull out some of the themes of the movie that I believe can apply to our everyday lives.

Presenting the Top 5 Reasons to Love The Greatest Showman:

  1. Don’t be afraid to dream impossible dreams. T. Barnum has a dream in his heart to start a magical show like none other, but he gets sidetracked by life. When he loses his corporate job, he takes a chance on his dream. At first no one comes to the circus, but with ingenuity and hard work, Barnum finally makes his dream a reality and the circus becomes a huge success. God has put a dream in your heart too! It may seem impossible and you don’t have a clue how it will ever be realized; you may have been sidetracked by life and feeling like that dream was just that…a pipe dream. But Jesus says, “All things are possible for one who believes,” (Mark 9:23). Put your faith in the One who can make your dreams come true and be willing to work hard to achieve them. For with great risk comes great reward!

 

  1. Come alive to experience all that life has in store for you. Barnum first fills his museum with wax statues and stuffed animals until his little girls suggest that he needs things that are alive, not dead, to attract the people. So, Barnum searches for “unusual persons,” enticing them to come alive and start dreamin’ with their eyes wide open. At first they are reticent because for years they have hidden themselves from the public, but Barnum’s joy is contagious and they truly do come alive. The same can be true of you and me. If we feel as if we’re sleepwalking through this life, we start to feel spiritually dead. But God’s plan is that we live a FULL life, filled with abundant joy. Jesus also said, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, a better life than they ever dreamed of,” (John 10:10). Come one, come all. You hear the call; for anyone who is searching for a way to break free. Come Alive!

 

  1. Even if the world rejects you, know that you are glorious. As the acts of the show do come alive they start to speak out against how they have always been treated. They’ve been told to hide away; run away; no one’ll love you as you are. But they have had enough! And they declare that they are brave, they are bruised, this is who they are meant to be. In this lifetime we will be cut by the sharpest of words of others. They will threaten to break us down to dust, but we must listen to the voice of the One who speaks life into us. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love and have continued my faithfulness to you,” (Jeremiah 31:3). Believe that and sing with passion like the bearded woman: I know that I deserve your love. There’s nothing I’m not worthy of. This is me!

 

  1. It is possible to rewrite the stars, but the change starts with us. Within the story a handsome, white aristocrat named Phillip begins to fall for a beautiful, black trapeze artist. Of course, their love is forbidden due to their racial differences and Phillip is met with severe opposition from his parents. Phillip protests, “Father, the world is changing.” Fast forward to 2018 and we need to ask ourselves: has the world really changed that much in the last 180 years? If so, why are we still harboring prejudices against people who have a different skin color than we do? This is not how Jesus wants us to live. “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” (Acts 17:26). It’s time to rewrite the stars and love others with different skin color than us as we love ourselves. What if we rewrite the stars? Is it impossible? Say that it’s possible!

 

  1. When you lose your way, remember your first love and come back home. When all the fortune and fame of P.T. Barnum’s success sets in, he begins to lose his way. He doesn’t do anything immoral per se, but he neglects his family to spend time with a very talented and beautiful woman and he also treats the acts of his circus with disrespect. Through a series of unfortunate events he loses everything and he eventually realizes what truly matters is his family and friends, and he resolves to not be blinded by the lights of fame any longer. Sometimes this happens to us in our everyday lives as well. We aren’t necessarily doing anything harmful to others, but before we know it our selfish desires have crept in and we are no longer walking in the light. But then, we remember our first love and we resolve to return to Him and He welcomes us with open arms. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). From now on…Stop and remember your first love. Come back home.

 

In the end, The Greatest Showman is a beautiful story of inclusion and acceptance of all people, something that Jesus Christ Himself taught. And if it’s crazy, then live a little crazy, because as P.T. Barnum said, “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”

Be. The. LIGHT!

Perfect Timing

standard January 24, 2018 Leave a response

Matthew 2:14

Do you ever stop to think about the concept of perfect timing?

Sometimes we’re delayed for an unknown reason and later we discover that there was an accident where we were traveling. Or maybe we’re supposed to be at an event, but due to illness we had miss it and it ends up being a good thing for the sake of our reputation that we weren’t there.

I always think it’s so interesting how God works things out for us in His perfect timing.

In Matthew 2 we are told that after the wise men left their gifts with Jesus an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to get up and take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod’s plan to kill the Messiah. It says that Joseph did the following:

Got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.

 What struck me about this passage was not only the perfect timing of the angel’s message, but also Joseph’s immediate obedience to follow the angel’s instructions. He didn’t wait until morning to wake the newborn baby and exhausted mother. No, he left during the night!

Joseph’s example is a good reminder for us in our everyday lives. If God says to get up and go, we should obey right then because we never know what He may be trying to spare us from. His timing is always perfect.